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This mission of the North Slope Science Initiative is to improve the regulatory understanding of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems for consideration in the context of resource development activities and climate change. The vision of the North Slope Science Initiative is to identify those data and information needs management agencies and governments will need in the future to develope management scenarios using the best information and mitigation to conserve the environments of the North Slope
The Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), under NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for the development and implementa¬tion of NOAA’s scientific research on living marine resources in Alaskan waters. Research addresses more than 250 fish and 42 marine mammal stocks dis¬tributed on the US continental shelf and in adjacent pelagic waters. Twenty-seven commercially-important fish and crab stocks are assessed annually. The study of the effects of climate change on marine resources evidenced by loss of sea ice and ocean acidification in the Bering and Chukchi seas is a key research area. The AFSC leads a suite of fisheries research and assessment cruises in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea, which include: 1. Annual eastern Bering Sea shelf bottom trawl survey 2. Biennial (even number years) survey, eastern Bering Sea 3. Biennial (even number years) bottom trawl survey, Aleutian Islands 4. Biennial (even number years) summer Pollock survey, eastern Bering Sea shelf 5. Annual winter Aleutian basin Pollock survey 6. Annual winter Shumagin Islands Sanak Trough Pollock survey 7. Annual winter Shelikof Strait Pollock survey 8. Annual sable fish longline survey 9. Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey extended to the Chukchi Sea and the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf (BASIS).BASIS is a gridded fisheries oceanography survey that includes CTD and NPZ observations in addition to catches from epipelagic (0-20m) trawls. The AFSC is expanding marine fish survey effort in the Arctic Ocean, including: 1. Beaufort Sea Marine Fish Survey planned for August 2008, a cooperative project of NOAA, UA, UW and MMS (providing funding); 2. Inter-tidal and sub-tidal Marine Fish and Habitat (“ShoreZone”) Surveys near Point Barrow (Beaufort and Chukchi Seas) in 2006 and 2008; and 3. Chukchi Sea Marine Fish Survey, an extension of BASIS possible for August 2008, contingent on NOAA ship availability.
NASA satellites (Figure 13) and numerous instruments provide high accuracy, stable, circum-Arctic measurements for ocean and sea ice observing, including surface vector winds over the ice-free ocean, sea surface temperature, marine phytoplankton and sea ice temperature. The NASA satellites and ocean and sea ice data sets include: 1. Passive microwave time series of sea ice extent begin in 1978 and are archived at NSIDC. 2. The major Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) time series is from the Canadian RADARSAT satellite launched in 1995. RADARSAT data of the Arctic Ocean are processed by the RGPS (RADARSAT Geophysical Processing System, yielding high-resolution charts of ice motion, age/thickness and deformation. All RGPS data are archived at the NASA-supported Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF), University of Alaska Fairbanks. 3. GRACE is a joint NASA/German mission that measures the changes in gravity associated with the changing mass of the ocean, land, and ice sheets. In experimental measurements, GRACE has measured the changes of mass associated with the shift of ocean currents in the Arctic Ocean. 4. The ICESat satellite is in a high latitude orbit (86°N) and can determine the free surface height of the Arctic Ocean up to that latitude. These laser measurements can be used to determine the geostrophic flow. ICESat also measures the height of the snow/air interface of the sea ice, which can be used to estimate sea ice thickness when combined with other data, e.g., snowfall and ice motion, or radar altimeter measurements of the sea ice freeboard. 5. Sea surface temperature (SST) and ice surface temperature (IST) are measured by NASA with the MODIS instrument aboard the Aqua and Terra satellites. The AMSR-E instrument on Aqua measures all-weather sea surface temperature. The follow-on instrument to MODIS is the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), scheduled for launch in 2010 on NPP (NPOESS Preparatory Project). The NPP follow-on satellite is the NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System) series beginning in 2013. 6. Satellite-derived ocean color is used in combina-tion with environmental data to provide primary productivity. NASA currently provides ocean color from observations taken by the MODIS instrument on Aqua. Under present plans, the MODIS replacement is VIIRS on the NPP and NPOESS satellites. Because VIIRS on NPP is not expected to yield the same high quality of ocean color measurements as MODIS, there may be a gap in the high accuracy of these measurements.
The USCG contributes to ocean and sea ice observa¬tions through a number of activities. First, USCG supports Arctic research through its icebreaking operations. Assets include three polar class icebreak¬ers, of which HEALY operates in the Arctic, POLAR SEA has recently completed drydock work, and POLAR STAR is in caretaker status pending an Administration decision on how the US can best meet polar icebreaking requirements. USCG carries out the annual International Ice Patrol (IIP). The activities of the IIP are governed by treaty and US law to encompass only those ice regions of the North Atlantic Ocean through which the major trans-Atlantic shipping lanes pass. There remain other areas of ice danger where shipping must exercise extreme caution. Information concerning ice conditions is collected primarily by air surveillance flights and from ships operating in the ice area. All iceberg data, together with ocean current and wind data, are entered into a computer model that predicts iceberg drift. Every 12 hours, the predicted iceberg locations are used to estimate the limit of all known ice. This limit, along with a few of the more critical predicted iceberg locations, is broadcast as an “Ice Bulletin” from radio stations around the US, Canada, Europe and over the Worldwide Web for the benefit of all vessels crossing the north Atlantic. In addition to the Ice Bulletin, a radio facsimile chart of the area, depicting the limits of all known ice, is broadcast twice daily. USCG has begun the Arctic Domain Awareness (ADA) program to prepare for increased maritime activity as climate changes provide greater access to the Arctic. Understanding the Arctic Maritime Do¬main is part of a DOD and DHS effort to improve Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) by developing an effective understanding of the global maritime domain and supporting effective decision-making as outlined in the National Strategy for Maritime Security. MDA includes both environmental condi¬tions and human activities that could affect maritime safety, security, the economy or environment. As MDA is expanded to the Arctic, there are likely overlaps in resource needs and sensors that could apply to both MDA/ADA and AON, and coordina¬tion of their activities will be mutually beneficial. The IIP works closely with the National Ice Center (NIC), a multi-agency operational center operated by the US Navy, NASA, NOAA and the USCG. The NIC mission is to provide the highest quality strategic and tactical ice services tailored to meet the operational requirements of Federal agencies. The NIC also coordinates and represents the many funding agencies and partners of the US Interagency Arctic Buoy Program (IABP). NIC also funds the coordinator of the program, and NSF supports IABP data management and coordination at the University of Washington. US buoy contributions to the IABP are funded by NOAA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). NSF supports the fabrication and deployment of drifting ice mass balance buoys by the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), US Army Corps of Engineers.
The overall goal of AON is to obtain data that will support scientific investigations of Arctic environmental system change. The observing objectives are to: 1. Maintain science-driven observations of environmental system changes that are already underway; 2. Deploy new, science-driven observing systems and be prepared for detection of future environmental system change; 3. Develop observing data sets that will contribute to (a) the understanding of Arctic environmental system change (via analysis, synthesis and modelling) and its connections to the global system, and (b) improved prediction of future Arctic environmental system change and its connections to the global system. Main gaps: Understanding Change and Responding to Change panels, has formed an AON Design and Implementation (ADI) Task Force. Composed of Arctic and non-Arctic scientists with experience and expertise in scientific observing and observing system operation and design, the goal of the task force is to provide advice to the scientific community and NSF on observing system/network design options that are available for identifying gaps that hinder scientific understanding of Arctic environmental system change. The task force will hold two workshops and address two main objectives: (1) evaluate the current SEARCH science questions and observing priorities, and recommend new priorities in the light of the environmental system changes that have occurred since 2005; and (2) evaluate observing system/network design methods, including pilot projects and small-scale tests. A publicly available report will be released in summer 2010. It is anticipated that the report will be of interest to the broader Arctic science community, the governments of the Arctic countries and other countries, NGOs and numerous stakeholders.
Observe changes in the ecosystem, fluxes of heat, salt, nutrients, CO2, and methane from the seafloor to the atmosphere above, as a function of changing climate in the Pacific Arctic region from the Bering Strait north to the high Arctic. Main gaps: So far unable to go far into the ice for investigation, although the geographical scope of the RUSALCA mission increased in 2009 because of the reduction of sea ice cover. (we were able to reach a northernmost site and to sample as far north as 77°30’N.
The NCOP collects, analyzes, and disseminates observations and predictions of tidal currents for over 2,700 locations throughout the United States. The NCOP conducts annual tidal current surveys in various locations which deploy current meters for 30-90 days to acquire enough data to generate accurate tidal current predictions. Main gaps: NOAA maintains tidal current predictions at approximately 2,750 locations. However, there are little historical data north of the Aleutian chain, and those data are very old.
The NWLON is a network of long term stations whose fundamental purpose is to provide vertical control (tidal datums) that support a host of national requirements. In addition, the NWLON collects continuous water level data and provides observations and derived data products that support: marine transportation and navigation ( hydrographic charting surveys, shoreline mapping surveys, tide predictions, forecast water levels, real time observations, dredging projects, hazardous material spill response); global sea level rise studies, storm surge and tsunami detection and warnings, marine boundary determination (federal/state, state/private, state/state), coastal zone management activities, ecosystem restoration, and effective marine spatial planning. Main gaps: Gap analysis report completed in FY2008 identifying gaps based primarily on providing vertical (tidal datum) control. Largest gaps in Arctic region – gaps in data and information in Bristol Bay, Bering Sea, Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, and Beaufort Sea areas.
To provide real-time marine meteorological, oceanographic and geophysical observations in real-time to the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Telecommunications Service (GTS).
The Bering Sea is an extremely rich ecosystem providing almost half of the US catch of fish and shellfish. EcoFOCI has four moorings (M2, M4, M5 and M8), which are an important component in the observational system, monitoring changes in the ecosystem. Data are used by ecosystem managers, modellers (model validation), and scientists. They provide critical information on the spatial temperature structure, timing of phytoplankton blooms, cold pool and presence of marine mammals. Main gaps: Expanding instrumentation to measure ice thickness, nutrients, oxygen, PAR, zooplankton biovolume and atmospheric variables to all four of the mooring sites. Increase vertical resolution of nutrients. Expand measurements northward into the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
To develop a coastal and ocean observing system in the Alaska region that meets the needs of multiple stakeholders by (1) serving as a regional data center providing data integration and coordination; (2) identifying stakeholder and user priorities for ocean and coastal information; (4) working with federal, state and academic partners to fill those gaps, including by AOOS where appropriate. Main gaps: AOOS and the data center are statewide activities, but thus far, available funding has limited observations and models primarily the Gulf of Alaska.
Understanding the physical oceanography of the northeast Chukchi Sea through the collection of real time High Frequency Radar (HFR) surface current measurements from shore-based systems, deployment of sub-surface Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP), and the use of Automated Underwater Vehicles (AUV). Providing oceanographic data sets for guiding the development and evaluation of ocean circulation, wave and oil spill trajectory models.
Track and analyze all bear/human conflicts for all circumpolar polar bear range states (countries). As a result of on-going and predicted future habitat loss, polar bears are expected to spend longer periods of time on land where they are susceptible to human disturbance. At the same time, human activity in coastal areas of the Arctic is increasing (e.g. oil and gas exploration, tourism) in conjunction with an increased number of nutritionally stressed bears occurring on land. The increasing trend of both polar bear and human use of coastal areas has the potential to result in increasing polar bear-human interactions. Harvest data indicates that defense of life kills have been increasing (USFWS unpublished data). To date, polar bear attacks have been rare but when they do occur, they evoke strong public reaction, especially for residents of communities within the range of polar bears. For sound management of polar bears to be implemented, and adequate protection afforded to people living, recreating, and working in polar bear country, it is imperative that polar bear managers assemble a database of critical information related to bear-human interactions. Interactions with humans may threaten polar bears by: (1) displacement from preferred habitats, such as denning, feeding and resting areas; (2) ingestion of or exposure to contaminants or toxic substances; (3) association of humans with food (food-conditioning) resulting in nuisance bears being killed due to safety concerns for local residents/workers. Polar bear managers can help maintain the current status of their polar bear populations by reducing lethal take of polar bears during bear-human interactions. To prevent escalating conflicts between polar bears and humans, bear-human interaction plans need to be developed and implemented. During the March 2009 Polar Bear Range States Meeting in Tromso, Norway the U.S. was tasked with taking the lead on developing a polar bear / human interaction initiative to address the anticipated future increase in interactions due to climate change. Tor Punsvik, Environmental Advisor, Office of The Governor of Svalbard, Norway and Dr. Terry D. DeBruyn, Polar Bear Project Leader, FWS, Alaska were requested by the Range States to develop a polar bear/human interaction database for the next Range States Meeting in Canada in 2011. It is anticipated that a draft database, populated with data from both the U.S. and Norway, will be ready by November 2009 for testing and comment by the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG). The draft database will be distributed to PBSG members, comment sought, and a request made that members populate the database with pertinent polar bear/human incidents (of primary interest, initially, are records from each country that relate to the use of bear spray and fatalities (both bear and human) resulting from bear-human interactions). At a subsequent meeting of U.S. and Norway in spring 2010, the database will be updated and thereafter redistributed to the PBSG and Range State members. It is anticipated that data from all Polar Bear Range States will then be available for consolidation and validation in winter 2010 and ready to present at the Range States meeting in 2011. To ensure the success of the project, partnering with various agencies and pertinent groups in the range state countries will occur. The Polar Bear Range States parties agree on the need to develop comprehensive strategies to manage bear-human conflicts. Some existing strategies include active deterrence, reduction of attractants, and community education and outreach. Expertise developed for management of other bear species should be consulted in the development of strategies specific to polar bears. The parties agreed to exchange experiences with management of bear-human interactions. Two specific opportunities were identified to develop bear-human interaction strategies: the upcoming Bear-human Workshop in November 2009 in Canmore, Alberta, Canada and the Polar Bear Aversive Conditioning Workshop planned to be held in Alaska in 2010. The Polar Bear-Human Information Management System (PBHIMS) has been developed to standardize the collection of polar bear data across the Range States. This system provides a user-friendly data entry interface and the ability to analyze the collected data. Data stored in the system includes bear-human conflicts, bear observations, bear harvests, and bear natural history data. Scanned images of the original bear forms, narratives, reports, and photos can be attached to each incident to provide additional information that may not be captured in the system. Main gaps: Developed for use by USFWS; other range states are not using it yet.
The Submarine Operational And Research Environmental Database (SOARED)is comprised of a fixed relational environmental database using unclassified data collected during the Science Ice Exercises (SCICEX) during the past several years. It also includes publicly accessible gridded historical sound velocity, temperature and salinity data from 1900 from the US National Oceanographic Data Center. This project is a demonstration system to show ways to retrieve and analyze sound velocity, temperature and salinity profiles, bathymetry and ice thickness data using a mouse-driven GIS-based query.
Our broad area of enquiry is the role of polar regions in the global energy and water cycles, and the atmospheric, oceanic and sea ice processes that determine that role. The primary importance of our investigation is to show how these polar processes relate to global climate.
Our central geophysical objective is to determine how sea ice and the polar oceans respond to and influence the large-scale circulation of the atmosphere. Our primary technical objective is to determine how best to incorporate satellite measurements in an ice/ocean model.
To observe the temperature/salinity structure of the Arctic Ocean along cross-Arctic transects aboard U.S. nuclear submarines in the SCICEX program.
To develop a long-range (ca. 30-day) AUV to deploy under the Arctic pack ice to measure and monitor ocean variables.
To understand and model the processes by which Arctic deep water is formed on continental shelves by the modification of inflowing Atlantic and Pacific waters.
To develop the next-generation Navy operational ice thickness and movement model.